IIT lectures now online

March 12, 2008

Lectures given at India’s premier engineering colleges can now be viewed online for free here. Seven of the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) along with the Indian Institue of Science, Bangalore have teamed up for the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL).

NPTEL aims to eventually put more than 20,000 hours of video online. When completed, it will dwarf other online-courseware efforts by leading American universities like MIT or Yale.

The videos cover every engineering subject right from a basic first-semester course like Engineering Chemistry I to Database Design. This will be a great resource for students who complain that their lecturers are incompetent/mildly retarded.

It is, no doubt, an admirable effort, but I am disgusted by the fact that the videos have been uploaded onto Youtube. This is a government sponsored project, why cant they afford the bandwidth to host a couple of petabytes of high-quality video? Besides the obvious lowering of video quality (I beleive Youtube compresses video to save bandwidth), it is a shame that that the Indian government had to turn to a foreign corporation to host its own content.

The URL of the NPTEL site is http://www.nptel.iitm.ac.in/home.php

You can create an alias for a table like this:

SELECT * FROM tablename newtablename WHERE conditions

For example

SELECT * FROM employee e1 WHERE e1.name = ‘Gandalf’

My college text-book ‘Fundamentals of Database Systems’ by Elmasri et al. says:

“It is generally advisable to create tuple variables (aliases) for all the tables referenced in an SQL query to avoid potential errors and ambiguities”

However I have found it necessary to use aliases only in rare situations; like when writing co-related sub-queries which involve the same table multiple times.

If you want to rename a table instead of referring to it by another name you will have to use ALTER TABLE.

A couple of weeks back my PC was infected with a virus that did the following:

  1. Created Ghost.bat and [insert folder name here].exe in folders
  2. Infected USB drives so that it launched the virus via Autoplay when inserted into a PC
  3. Suddenly delete heavily used executables such as editors or image viewers (I found no mention of this any descriptions of the virus, so it could be due to something else)

My fully updated AVG freeware edition failed to detect any virus in the Ghost.bat or [insert folder name here].exe files. I was left helpless although I knew a virus had infected my PC.

Finally I did some searching and finally came up with the name “I-Worm/Wukill.B. Apparently the virus is known to AVG but it still fails to detect it!

I immediately uninstalled AVG and replaced it with Kaspersky. Kaspersky wiped out the virus easily. The downside is that when Kaspersky is performing a scan my PC runs at a glacial pace.

I decided to try out Opera after reading a Firefox-bashing site (link at the bottom). I’ll admit to being sucked in by the whole “Take back the web” propaganda. So, in order to decide for myself whether Firefox is really the best I downloaded and installed Opera 9.23.

What I did not like

The in-built BitTorrent client sucks

One of the features that could have made me switch to Opera immediately was the in-built BitTorrent client. Sadly BitTorrent support appears to be rudimentary – all files in the torrent must be compulsorily downloaded.

Firefox’s ‘extensions’ are better than Opera’s ‘Widgets’

Firefox allows extensions to modify the browser interface – this can be very helpful in making extensions more accessible. In Opera however widgets appear to be “web applications” that must be accessed through the Widgets menu, ugh.

What I liked

Speed Dial is a fantastic feature


Instead of showing users a blank page every time a new tab is created Opera shows you thumbnails of your favorite sites. Editing the list is easy too, you can drag-and-drop sites from a tab into a slot.

This is a great idea and Opera 9 executes it well.

Notes” are useful

If you surf the net a lot you will often feel the need to store small bits of information. Opera makes this super-easy using Notes. Simply select some text, right-click and say Copy-to-note. The text will automatically be stored along with the site it was taken from.

I can see myself using Notes a lot.

Opera can resume downloads across sessions

Opera allows you to resume downloads that were started in previous sessions. Firefox on the other hand does not support resuming downloads – you must install an extension like DownThemAll!

The site that spurred me to try out Opera can be found at http://mywebpages.comcast.net/SupportCD/FirefoxMyths.html

I got the idea of creating a list of open-source software I use when reading A Modest Construct. My list is mostly software-development oriented but some gems like 7-zip will be useful to everybody.

Anyway, heres the list:



(S)FTP/SCP Clients

Archivers and Compressors

Text Editors and/or IDE

Version control